The Memory Project Preserves Stories of ‘The Greatest Generation'

"There's a lot gained in the kinds of technology we have now, but there's also a lot lost in terms of human interaction”

A group of University of North Texas students is preserving memories - one story at a time. An experimental performance will capture tales from members of what's often referred to as "the greatest generation."

The Memory Project is a production created by students and directed by Mara Richards Bim. The artistic director of Cry Havoc Theater Company in Dallas set out to explore the stories of people who grew up in the World War II era. The cast interviewed about twenty people who were born in a time which was much simpler.

"There's a lot gained in the kinds of technology we have now, but there's also a lot lost in terms of human interaction,” said Richards Bim. “That's a big reason I wanted to do this particular show."

Among those interviewed, a woman who fled Nazi Germany but lost many family members. A man who knew Jackie Robinson. Another who was a child in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Some were present when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

"What people's generations before us went through compared to how we have it, I think I'm extremely blessed,” said actor Tatum Love, a theater major.

Lynda Cervenka Hall, of Denton, was interviewed after responding to an e-mail, seeking people willing to share their stories.

"I don't think they believed half of what I said,” said Hall, who told stories of her childhood, which included fishing, playing near a dam, and using an old airplane fuselage to pretend to fly around the world. “It's a different world now.”

"It was really interesting,” said Richards Bim. “They had to rely on their own resourcefulness and imagination in a very different way than kids today do."

The stories guide the script for the performance piece, and at the same time help preserve childhood memories of the WWII generation. Topics discussed include today’s technology, and how life experiences help the interviewees form opinions on today’s political climate.

“It's kind of insane to think that these people went through that,” said Love, who plays the role of Lynda.

“I'm glad these stories don't have to leave with them,” said Phillip Burton, who portrays an African-American woman who grew up in times of segregation. “We can show them to everybody."

Several of the interviewees plan to attend the production, which runs February 28 through March 3 at the Studio Theater in the Radio, Television, Film and Performing Arts Building at UNT.

Hall says she’s looking forward to it.

“I thought it was important to pass along what little knowledge I have, and they seemed interested," she said. “I'm just anxious to see what they did with it."

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